Shorter Meetings are BETTER

board members h o a homefront Jan 17, 2021

It may not shock readers to know I have seen innumerable board meetings run far too long, exhausting volunteers and degrading the quality of the deliberations.  Consider these tips to keep meetings moving forward efficiently.

Stay on topic.  The Open Meeting Act only allows boards to discuss the posted agenda items, and verbal detours waste time better spent on the scheduled matters anyway. Everybody should help the chair keep the discussion on agenda.  Get back on track, and discuss what the agenda announced the board would address.

Use consent calendars. Routine and non-controversial items should be in a consent calendar. All items are voted upon as a group and without discussion but any director desiring to discuss an item can remove it by asking. Use the consent calendar routinely, reserving time for items meriting discussion.

Plan your agenda and don’t be too ambitious. If the agenda is too full, avoid a very long meeting by deferring some items to the next board meeting. Some items are sufficiently important that they even merit a special board meeting, but may get short shrift if the agenda is too full. 

Refer major topics to a committee, manager, or consultant, who then will make a detailed written recommendation. This can help orient the board and make its deliberations more effective.

Don’t discourage dissent.  In a 5-member board, a 3-2 vote is as binding as 5-0.  “No” votes are not bad or disloyal.  Insisting on unanimity puts too much pressure on directors to agree, and lengthens discussion as the board tries to attain consensus on everything.

Call for the question.  Boards often over-discuss issues – even ones on which everybody agrees.  When the chair sees that the board is clearly headed in a certain direction, it is time to move toward a vote.

Be prepared.  Hopefully, your board receives an agenda packet several days before the board meeting.  If everyone reads their packet beforehand, that prepared board will be more efficient.

Postpone incomplete items. If the subject isn’t ready for presentation, postpone it until a meeting when sufficient information is available. Sometimes directors try to flesh out and reconstruct an item when more information is needed. Consider postponing such items until they are truly ready for consideration.

Avoid “town hall” style board meetings. Board meetings often are overly extended because the audience participates in the discussions, even though they are not legally responsible for the board’s decisions and lack the information the board is provided. Allow owners to speak uninterrupted during open forum and then insist they not interrupt afterward.

Have a reasonable time limit on open forum remarks.  Three minutes is very common, and if many wish to talk, reduce it to two minutes to give everyone a chance.

Don’t co-manage or do committee work. Boards often become mired in details of the manager’s tasks or in reconstructing committee recommendations.  If the board is bogged down on a committee item, return it to the committee for further work. As to managers, set their overall instructions and allow them to execute. Micromanaging consumes a lot of board time. 

Adopt meeting rules.  Such rules should establish behavior standards, indicating a positive indication to members that the association places a high value on organized and fair meetings. 

Strive for efficient meetings and go home sooner.

Written by Kelly G. Richardson

Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit your reader questions here. All rights reserved®.